Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Joycean Jinx!

“Being humus the same roturns”
JJ, FW Pg. 18

The sensationalistic tabloid story of Robert Durst has once again surfaced on print and digital front pages the world round. This time thanks to an HBO documentary called “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” (Bear with me on this!)

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, in short, what happened was an extremely rich man’s wife disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the 1980’s, then a close friend of his (Susan Berman) was murdered 2 decades later when she was about to be questioned about the wife’s disappearance, and then he admittedly killed and dismembered a neighbor, but successfully claimed self defense. He was generally regarded as having gotten away with at least 3 murders.

He then agrees to participate in a documentary about himself, proclaiming his innocence and bad luck coincidence throughout, which aired recently to great interest, and concluded by bringing about new evidence, resulting in his current arrest.

What was the new evidence? A misspelled word.

After Susan Berman was killed an anonymous letter was sent to the police informing them of the body’s location.

In the anonymous letter, presumably sent by the killer, Beverly Hills is misspelled as "Beverley Hills."

The documentary crew then discovers a letter that Durst sent to Berman with the exact same misspelling and indistinguishable handwriting.

The documentary crew confronts Durst about this, and he appears to have strange involuntary reactions, all while still maintaining his innocence and bad luck coincidence. And then in a truth is stranger than fiction moment, Durst excuses himself to the bathroom, and forgetting that he is still wearing a microphone, engages in what sounds like a pathological rambling confession.

But it’s really the misspelled word that’s the more concrete evidence, and doesn’t this scenario sound familiar to ye Joyceans?

The Phoenix Park murders of 1882, which features prominently in the dreamscape of Finnegans Wake, along with the attempt of Richard Piggott to frame Charles Stewart Parnell as being involved in and/or supportive of the murders via a series of forged letters.

Parnell was cleared of the charges because Piggott’s misspelling of the word hesitancy as “hesitency” identified him as the author of the letters.

“Hesitency was clearly to be evitated”
JJ, FW Pg. 35

Joyce makes much of this incident and the theme recurs throughout the book, playing into the ambiguity of HCE’s guilt/innocence of the indistinct crime he is accused of.

Curious that in both cases it was an extra letter “e” that did the trick.

So it goes, around and around and around again.


michael said...

Fantastic! I kept seeing articles about something happening that was amazing on "reality" TV (or something), viewers shocked by the ending, a rich guy named Durst, etc...but I hadn't watched the show, and didn't think I'd even heard of it.

You not only succinctly cleared all that up for me, but you linked it to FW in fascinating way.

This story also reminded of literary forensic detective Don Foster's book, _Author Unknown_, although the crew of the TV show were merely paying close attention to a misspelling; Foster goes into deep textual detail to try to find out who anonymous authors might be (such as the author of _Primary Colors_), or if "Wanda Tinasky," who wrote very Pynchonesque letters to a small newspaper in No. California...was "really" Pynchon. Etc.



Bobby Campbell said...

Thanks very much!

I remember when the big story was everyone trying to figure out who Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin inventor) really was, and all the statistical analysis that got done on his emails and message board posts trying to pin down his identity.

There are so many little quantifiable quirks even in something as generally uniform as typing out a simple message.

Maybe everyone really is a unique special snowflake after all!

PQ said...

This is awesome.

Bobby Campbell said...

Thx PQ!


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